Bhakra Wildlife Sanctuary of Punjab

History of the Sanctuary

Bhakra Nangal Wildlife sanctuary is basically a man-made wetland. The wetland came into existence in the year 1961 when the 6km long artificial lake called Nangal lake was constructed over the Satluj river to divert extra water from Bhakra Nangal Dam.

In the year 2008, the Ministry of Environment and Forest recognized Nangal wetland as the National Wetland of India. In the year 2009, the government of Punjab declared Nangal Wetland as a Wildlife sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It was designated as a Ramsar site on 26-09-2019. The Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation (Rupnagar Wildlife Division), Punjab has the authority to manage the wildlife sanctuary. The “Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence” was signed here only by the Indian Prime Minister and his Chinese counterpart in the year 1954.

Access to the Wetland

The wildlife sanctuary is located at a distance of about 100 km from Chandigarh, at the foothills of Shiwalik ranges in the city of Rupnagar in the state of Punjab on the banks of river Satluj. It is spread over 2.9 sq. km in six villages- Debeta, Hambewal, Talwara, Bhabohor Sahib, KheraBagh, and Sahmipur. 

Topography of the Area

The wetland is situated at 31°22’ N to 31°37’ North latitude to 76°23’E to 76°38’ East longitude. It is situated at an altitude of 362.71 m (1172 feet).

Geology of the Area

The Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary is basically a wetland because the Nangal lake has converted the land into a spongy and marshy area.

Climatic Conditions of the Area

The temperature ranges from 4° Celsius in winters to 46° Celsius in summer. The wildlife sanctuary receives most of the rainfall in the months of July, August, September. 

Fauna Found 

The major tree species that are found in the sanctuary are Acacia nilotica, cassia fistula, Mangifera indica, Syzygium cumin, Acacia catechu, Ficus benghalensis, Ficus religiosa, Salix, Aak, Amaltas, Amb, Amla, Arjun, Ashwagandha, Bel, Bahera, Bamboo Bains, Bhung, Brahmi, Drek, Harer, Imli, Kahi, Kamal, Khair, Khajur, Kikar, etc.

Wildlife Around

The Nangal Wildlife sanctuary is a reservoir of biodiversity. It is a perfect amalgamation of pristine blue-green water, hilly terrain, and plain land, because of which it is home to a myriad of indigenous species as well as migratory birds.

Some of the water birds have nesting colonies at the sanctuary like Little Cormorants, purple herons, cattle egrets, black-crowned night herons, little egrets, Resident terrestrial birds like common mynas, Brahmini Starling, Asian pied starling, Jungle Myna, House crows, Eurasian colored dove, Himalayan Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Rise-ringed parakeet, Blossom headed parakeets, coppersmiths Barbets, Brown-headed Barbets, common tailorbird, Ashy Prinia, Pied Bushvhat, Red-wattled Lapwing, Indian Peafowl, Grey Francolin, House sparrow, Brown Rock chat, and Migratory birds like the ferruginous duck.

Threatened species like Indian pangolin (Manis crassicandata) and Egyptian vulture ( Nephron percnopterus), and the Leopard (Panthera pardus) is also found here.

Endangered species like Pallas’s fish eagle, Egyptian vulture, Black-bellied tern, hog deer, Golden Masheer are found here.

Vulnerable species like common pochard, wallago catfish, Burmese python, Mammals like a pale hedgehog, jungle car, mongoose, rufous tailed hare are also found here.

Topography of the Nangal lake

Lake is broadest beyond 2834 meters but starts narrowing down towards the dam. The maximum depth of the river is recorded to be 15.84 meters and breadth to be 290 meters. The water level in the river fluctuates according to the seasons and the water in the Bhakra dam. The ph level of the river ranges from 7.4 to 7.6. the salinity of the river ranges from 100-700 mg/l.

Degradation of the wetlands

In the study conducted from July 2018 to May 2019, it has been revealed that the pollution has been snowballing in the wildlife sanctuary primarily because of the establishment of the National Fertilizer Limited, Punjab Alkalis and Chemicals Ltd, and other human settlements. The waste and effluents discharged through the industries and settlements exacerbate the water quality, thus posing a threat to flora and fauna thriving in this sanctuary.

In the area near National Fertilizers Limited, the higher values of BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand), nitrates, sulfates, chlorides, free Carbon dioxide, turbidity, total dissolved solids, and lower values of Dissolved oxygen were reported. 

Steps taken to protect the degrading environment

1. Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) has been playing a proactive role in protecting the Nangal lake and wildlife sanctuary. Some of the steps taken by BBMB are elucidated below:

  • To enumerate the environmental objective targets and work to meet the targets so that there is an amelioration of the environment.
  • Establishing well-equipped laboratories to conduct chemical and bacteriological tests silt analysis to check the portability of water and its suitability for the species of the wetlands. 
  • Develop proper solid waste management plans to ensure safe and scientific disposal of the solid waste at the project areas.
  • Identification of green belts and help in the development of the park, nurseries, gardens on the nearby vacant land.
  • To ensure that there is no blockage of drains sewer systems so that they do not result in contaminate the lake water.
  • To conduct awareness campaigns to appraise the locals about the measures to be taken to combat further depletion of the lake and the wetland.
  • The Environment and Climate Change Cell have been set up to take measures to combat climate change.

2. Government in the year 2012-13 converted the heavy-stock based NFL unit to gas-based to curb pollution potential of the unit.
3. New Urea Policy 2015 was formulated to lower the urea consumption of both the fertilizer unit and Alkalis and Chemical limited.
4. It is also protected under National Lake Conservation Program.
5. National Green Tribunal has also passed the following directions to ensure pollution control:

  • To develop action plans to lower pollution in order to meet the prescribed norms.
  • Various sources of pollution like construction activities, vehicles, industries, agriculture, garbage dumping, and burning are to be identified, and then accordingly action plan needs to be developed to curb the pollution.

6. Some of the other missions that encompass improving the Nangal’s atmosphere and reducing pollution as their vision are Mission Tandarust, Punjab, Vision for Clean Air, Nangal, Mission Clean Air, Nangal, Strategy for Clean Air, Nangal.
7. Major stakeholders that need to play a significant role to control pollution are the Punjab Pollution Control Board, Department of Local Government/ MC, Punjab, Department of Transport, Department of Forests, Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, Department of Agriculture.